Why do we have time limits on valid legal claims?
The statute of limitations is a legal term that refers to the limitation present on filing a lawsuit against another individual. The limitation is present for both criminal and civil suits. The state is often responsible for criminal suits. Examples include a drunk driving or assault case. This would entail the government filing criminal charges. In contrast, an individual can file a civil suit against another individual. These suits allow individuals to hold those who cause injury, either physical, emotional or monetary, responsible for their actions. This piece focuses specifically on civil suits.
The time periods set by the statute of limitations are creatures of state law. As such, the following information focuses specifically on the laws applied in West Virginia.
Statute of limitations: Why do they exist?
These time limits are designed to encourage victims to move forward with a suit within a reasonable time period. They exist to address the interplay between competing interests: the prompt resolution of claims, compensation and retribution for the victim and the deterrence of similar violations in the future.
Although society generally wants a victim to find justice, we also do not want the threat of a lawsuit hanging over an offenders head for an indefinite period of time. In an effort to better ensure fairness, the legislature has applied a different time limitation on different claims.
Statute of limitations: How long for each claim?
The type of claim governs the period of time available to file suit. Personal injury cases, such as car accidents, generally have a two year time period from the date of the accident. This two year time limit also generally holds true for cases involving damage done to property and medical malpractice cases. In contrast, a case for a breach of contract is generally allowed for up to ten years.
The statute of limitations applies regardless of the amount of objective evidence present in a case. As a result, no matter how strong the case against the person responsible for the injuries may be it is best to seek legal counsel promptly.
Injured in a car accident: When do I pursue a personal injury lawsuit?
Although it is important to act within a reasonable period of time, the first priority is your health. If you need medical attention, get the care you need. Once your health is addressed, it is likely wise to seek legal counsel. An attorney experienced in these matters can take on the stress that may come with building a case so that you can focus on your health.